Holidays in Germany



We’re in the thick of holiday season in Germany, and some of you have been asking what it’s like here with holidays. I forget sometimes that not everyone knows the little things that I share with our immediate families over FaceTime… but more than that, I also just start to forget just how much we’ve learned in the past 503 days (say what?!).

For example, gift boxes are common here for birthday parties. If you walk into a toy store, there’s a wall of baskets with labels for Freida’s birthday, Mats’ birthday, and more. Also, we have “Meine Freunde Buch” (My Friends Book) which are kind of like yearbooks, except the child mom is responsible for completing (with the child–with Google translate, if you don’t know the language) and inserting a wallet size photo of their child (which they must figure out how to print in a foreign country). Ok–so maybe this tradition was a little stressful to begin with, but is much easier for us, now. I have my wallet-sized photos ready to go and we now know that we’re responsible for a 24 hour turn-around and we are absolutely not to “Pass it along” but return it to the owner, who will handpick who gets to fill out a page in their book. (Hopefully the family who gave us our first Freunde Buch and didn’t get it back for several weeks has forgiven us.)


Halloween is new, here. This holiday has been celebrated here for less than 10 years. They have another holiday in February called Fasching (kind of like New Orleans’ Mardi Gras). Yes, I had to run home last year and get masks and capes because my children were horrified that we arrived un-costumed on a day when everyone arrived in a costume. True Love for my kiddos. I went back home.

Our experience is that the Halloween that made it across the pond is less “home-grown/home made” and more “store-bought”– with a lot of ghoul and blood. On the other hand, I love that trick-or-treaters recite poetry. Some do just say, “Süß oder Saures” (Sweets or Sours–translated literally), but we’ve had a few recite poems–which is so cool. Last year we had two kids come to our door, but this year the neighborhood has filled out a bit more and we had a carving pumpkin party and were able to give away a whole bowl-full of candy. It’s nice to see the neighborhood coming together. Also, because it’s not really “town-wide”, there’s not published “Trick-or-Treating” times like in the States… which led to a series of neighborhood texting as to what time it should commence. That made me giggle. #EarlyForMyKidsPlease

Thanksgiving. Ok. This one is cheating. They don’t have it, here… BUT! They do have the Erntendank Fest (or Harvest Fest) that happens in October. It’s a festival of gratitude for the fall harvest and we’ve enjoyed their parade in a neighboring town, where they mostly threw candy, but also some actual leeks, cabbage, potatoes, and other veggies. (Well, they handed those out… they didn’t chuck ’em.)


We hosted Thanksgiving here and I more than benefitted from the traditional host gift: flowers. My home has been bursting with the signs of having hosted our wonderful friends for Thanksgiving–and I love it.

Host Flowers

I don’t think I’ll ever readjust to a 9 am Macy’s Day Parade. I *love* watching the parade with cocktails at 3 pm in the afternoon and finishing at 6 pm to Thanksgiving dinner. Love. However, if we ever go back, I will kiss the American-sized oven. No really. I’ll post a photo. And then the freezer. Actually, maybe I’ll kiss the freezer first.


Weihnachten! Christmas! Yes, we love the traditional Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) that are all over the city. Fun gifts, pretty food, carousels, and of course, Gluhwein (spiced wine served warm). This year, I’m reveling in the fact that I have Fridays off without my children and might get to go shopping at the Weihnachtsmarkt without kids underfoot (or screaming in the stroller, like they did last year). It’s a lovely time in Germany–warm and cozy–especially when the weather is particularly bad. It has a knack of being just above freezing and raining here. Snow isn’t typical and I was so grateful that last year wasn’t typical and we saw a fair bit of snow.

New Year’s Eve – I have never seen–or heard–more fireworks being set off from the family/household side of things than last year’s New Year’s Eve in Hamburg. It was amazing. You couldn’t actually see too much because they were all the family-sized celebration fireworks–but the sound was unforgettable. Last year we had a lovely evening with friends and my kids still talk about it–even though we attempted to put them to bed at 10 pm (unsuccessfully). Seriously, though. We did 8 pm poppers with them and then somehow had them up still at 11 pm. Ridiculous.

And yes, just like the states, there’s this long void between my birthday (late January) and Easter… which feels way too long and way too dark to keep anyone sane. That didn’t stop us from learning that on Palm Sunday, the children are supposed to make these super long stick celebration branches that we (of course) didn’t provide for our children. This year? We’re so on it. Bring it.

It’s been great fun learning about new traditions and getting to enjoy Germany’s traditions… and yes, we have continuously found ourselves at celebrations where every single child has something our children do not. And you know what? Our kids are champs. Brian and I laughed as we stuck our cell phones on the “flashlight” mode because we didn’t buy lantern lights for Laterna–St. Martin’s fest. And George and Rowan? They’re game. We love a reason to celebrate–and God love our kids for dealing with two parents who have no idea what the regular is for any holiday here.

May your holiday season be filled with joy! And Gluhwein!

Weihnachtsmarkt 2